Traditional Approaches to Marketing Need to Change as Consumers Go Virtual
Traditional ways of selling to customers, based on demographic information, will become irrelevant in the online world, especially with the emergence of "Generation Virtual," according to Gartner, Inc. Companies will need new skills and techniques to engage and remain relevant in this new world.
Unlike previous generations, Generation Virtual (also known as Generation V) is not defined by age — or gender, social demographic or geography — but is based on demonstrated achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights. Generation V is the recognition that general behavior, attitudes and interests are starting to blend together in an online environment.
"Conventional wisdom has focused on customer identification as the foundation for one-to-one marketing campaigns," said Adam Sarner, principal analyst at Gartner. "The reality of Generation V creating anonymous online personas, and the sheer power of their growing influence in an online environment, means companies must change their methods of acquisition and relationship building."
"CRM-focused companies and particularly their marketing departments must take notice of this change and engage with online personas," Mr. Sarner said. "Businesses need to adapt and attune to the needs of Generation V, or face the wrath of 'virtual mobs' and a mass exodus. "Going forward, customers' true identities will have less importance, and instead companies will need to understand the role or persona that customers are playing at any given time and treat them accordingly."
Gartner said that providers of third-party customer data, business intelligence and analytic tools will shift toward consumer applications and eventually arm companies with automated, artificial intelligence and self-learning "persona bots" to seek customers' needs and desires.
Recommendations to CRM-Focused Organizations
1. Collect persona data for product development, customer feedback, loyalty management, customer segmentation, campaign targeting and persona group customer satisfaction management. This wealth of data can be used for marketing and selling and will provide insight into how customers want to be treated.
2. Move away from product-based segmentation toward wants-based segmentation. Virtual worlds, such as Second Life, already provide sandbox scenarios, where multiple personas can explore wants and desires that companies are attempting to fulfil.
3. A company that develops a mutually beneficial relationship with its customer base through data collection and communication enables the valuable flow of information between the customer and the company.
4. Focus on social sciences, anthropology and game design, skills that will attract, connect with, contribute to and gain insight from personas and virtual environments. Few companies currently employ people with these skills, but they will be vital to understand how personas interact, to draw insight from cultures, and to create engaging virtual environments in the future.
5. A persona bot is an automated, personality-infused, self-replicating, virtual representative that will be used as a tool to facilitate life events in an online environment. Gartner predicts that by 2017 the persona bot will be mass-adopted with more than 20 million active persona bots in the U.S. alone. To fully engage with Generation V, companies will have their own automated bots for critical relationship handling, such as sales, customer service and marketing. Key drivers, such as 24/7 presence and the capability to communicate domain expertise, will help customers navigate their way toward purchases.
Mr. Sarner will provide more detailed analysis about Generation Virtual at the upcoming Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2008: Emerging Trends, to be held from April 6 through April 10 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Gartner Symposium/ITxpo: Emerging Trends is Gartner's premier event focused on the emerging trends, technologies, business models and new management thinking poised to have a dramatic impact on business, the economy and society. Thousands of IT professionals from the world's leading enterprises rely on Gartner's Symposium/ITxpo: Emerging Trends event to gain insight into how their organizations can use technology to address business challenges and improve operational efficiency. For more information, please visit www.gartner.com/us/emergingtrends. Members of the media can register by contacting GartnerEvents@text100.com
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